Wednesday, August 21, 2019 Elyria 80°
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Outdoors

Owls' cries break winter silence

  • c7color4xowlnest-jpg

    An abandoned nest, now being used by great horned owls.

    BRAD ZAHAR / CHRONICLE

  • c7color4xhorned-JPG

    A great horned owl.

    BRAD ZAHAR / CHRONICLE

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Birds are chirping and temperatures hit 60 degrees this week. The groundhog told us we’d see an early spring, although we know how reliable Phil is.

The calendar, on the other hand, doesn’t give us any false hope as we are still in the dead of winter. Spring is still a little ways away and wildlife activity is pretty dormant after last weeks’ freeze.

However, there is one very active bird this time of year, and if you’ve been in the woods, you may have heard its hooting -- the great horned owl.

In the heart of winter, great horned owls are in the peak of their breeding season which continues into March. Their “hoot” can be heard off in the distance, most commonly at dawn and dusk, the times these birds are most active.

These creatures are common around this area, but aren’t the easiest to spot. With them being most active at first and last light, listening to their hoots is easiest way to locate them.

“From there you can find their nests,” said Tim Fairweather, Senior Naturalist and Park Manager at Sandy Ridge Reservation for Lorain County Metro Parks. “Owls don’t build their own nests and usually use an old hawk or eagle nest.”

“During the day, owls nest so if you can find their nest, you can usually see their ears sticking out above it.”

Sometimes, owls are found nesting in tree cavities, too.

Fairweather says there is a pair of great horned owls at Sandy Ridge right now. However locating their nest or “home” has been tricky.

As for other owls in the area, last year the lakefront saw an irruption of snowy owls who moved south from the tundra in search of food. Unfortunately, the sightings for those owls can probably be done on one hand this year, as Northeast Ohio has not been as fortunate on that front as last year.

Outside of owls hooting, Fairweather said things have been pretty dead as far as wildlife goes after last week’s cold snap. With an almost 70-degree swing in temperature over the last 10 days, wildlife is probably confused as to what season it is.

Wildlife watching isn’t at its peak right now, but bald eagle sightings are expected to ramp up soon. Their nesting season begins in late February and spotting them becomes far easier. With their nests being so large, they are difficult to miss. There is a new female at Sandy Ridge Reservation in North Ridgeville, so it remains to be seen if she will use the previous nest or what her habits will be this nesting season.

Deer season comes to a close

Ohio’s deer harvest numbers from the 2018-19 season are in and show a decrease of 8 percent statewide over last season. Lorain County’s harvest numbers reflected the drop, down almost 200 deer -- 2,255 last year and 2,073 this year.

Everyone has an opinion on the decrease ranging from lower deer population to the weather being dismal during gun season to other regulations. While an 8-percent drop isn’t what hunters would like to see, the root cause may not be known until we can see a trend and analyze where things are heading over the next couple of deer seasons.

Contact Brad Zahar at bzaharoutdoors@gmail.com.
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